What inspired you to write Hotel Magnifique?
Before Hotel Magnifique, I wrote a number of book-shaped things that will probably live locked in a drawer for the rest of eternity. But through writing them, I fell in love with the craft. Then one day, I was scrolling Pinterest for work and stumbled upon an image of this narrow, decadent building that looked like it was built in the narrow space between buildings—as if it wasn’t there the day before. (I later learned that it’s called Maison Saint-Cyr in Belgium, if you’d like to look it up.) The idea of a traveling hotel hit, and the potential of it lit a fire beneath me and kept me awake at night. I think I wrote that first draft in two months off sheer excitement.
Are any of the characters or elements of the story based on real people or places?
I certainly took inspiration from France for Verdanne, but aside from a building in Belgium that spurned the idea, there’s no specific places or people. I’m a magpie when it comes to inspiration and I tend to look everywhere for it and combine things to create something that feels unique. I love mining music videos and fashion. I love learning about history and falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes. I’m also a diehard Pinterest fanatic. I worked as an art director for years before switching to writing books, and I think my brain is still wired to take inspiration from visuals—and to think visually. If you’re interested, I have a whole Pinterest board for my book here: https://www.pinterest.com/emilyjoy/hotel-magnifique/.
What do you hope young readers will take away from the story and how it unfolds?
I wrote the book during a darker period in my life where I was voraciously reading anything and everything escapist. I hope this story serves that purpose and creates a magical little escape to everyone who reads it.
How do you think things would have turned out differently if Jani had known the truth about herself from the beginning?
Great question! I think if she had known certain secrets, she probably would have given them away at the interview and suffered the same fate as the other workers.
Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Jani and the Hotel Magnifique?
I always meant for her story to be a standalone. But without giving away any spoilers, I’ll say that my next book feels like a spiritual cousin of Hotel Magnifique. It’s an idea that seemed just as unwieldy and impossible when I first thought of it. It will take you to new, unexpected places. And it has magic. My books will probably always have magic.
Why did you choose to write books for this age group?
I’m a reader first and foremost, and there’s something magical about YA stories that I keep coming back to. I love how immediate they are and how they deal with so many firsts. I also think you can take some risks in YA that I don’t see in other categories. It all feels exciting for me.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
I wrote the first draft of Hotel Magnifique in a coffee shop—long before the pandemic. These days, I’ve had to make do with my little office filled with books and scraps of things I’ve collected over the years, usually with coffee beside me and a candle burning; scents help get me into the stories quicker.
Which other fantasy books for this age group would you recommend our subscribers read next?
My go-to favorite YA fantasy authors are Laini Taylor, Erin A. Craig, Holly Black, and Leigh Bardugo, but I’m constantly finding new books that I love. Some recent YA debut books that I can’t stop thinking about are Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood, This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede, and Revelle by Lyssa Mia Smith.
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